Terrifying new footage shows Shinzo Abe’s bodyguards try to deflect assassin’s bullets with BRIEFCASES as former PM freezes when first shot is fired… then slumps when fatal bullet hits

  • Shinzo Abe, 67, Japan’s former PM and a towering political figure, has been shot dead while campaigning
  • Abe, the country’s longest-serving leader, was shot twice as he gave a speech in the city of Nara at 11.30am
  • Shocking video captures the moment of the attack, showing how oblivious security guards were caught unawares by the first shot – which missed – and tried to block the second fatal round with briefcases
  • Chilling photo also shows killer Tetsuya Yamagami calmly waiting behind Abe as he prepares to attack

This is the shocking moment former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead – revealing how oblivious security guards tried to block bullets with their briefcases after realising too late that he was under attack.

Cameras trained on Abe as he gave a political stump speech in the city of Nara at 11.30am captured the moment the first shot was fired, missing the politician but producing a loud bang and a cloud of smoke.

For what feels an eternity, but in reality is just a few seconds, Abe remains on his podium as bewildered guards – who were all looking at him as he spoke – turn around and finally grasp what is happening, just a moment too late.

Panicked, they try to put themselves between Abe and 41-year-old gunman Tetsuya Yamagami, with one even flinging his briefcase in a lame attempt to stop what they all know is coming.

Abe turns too, and may have caught sight of his attacker for the briefest of moments before the second fatal shot is fired: Causing his shirt-front to ripple as pellets tear into his neck and chest, burying themselves in his heart.

He is not immediately knocked unconscious, but stumbles off the stump and collapses to his knees before slumping over. Guards run to his side, and later images show how they began chest compressions in a vain attempt to revive him. He died several hours later in hospital from massive blood loss.

Yamagami was tackled to the ground and arrested, with police saying he has confessed – telling them he wanted to kill Abe because he was a member of a ‘specific organisation’ that he disagreed with.

Police say Yamagami had amassed an arsenal of home-made weapons similar to the one used in the attack at his home, along with a number of explosives which have been taken to be destroyed.

It is not clear exactly how he learned to make the weapons, but he is a veteran of the country’s defence forces, having served in the navy between 2002 and 2005.

Yamagami is currently unemployed and had travelled to Nara by train, lying in wait at the station where Mr Abe was due to give his speech before launching the attack. Cops have not said how long he waited.

A chilling image taken just moments before Abe was killed shows Yamagami – an unassuming figure in a green t-shirt and cargo trousers – loitering just behind him.

Mr Abe was a towering figure in Japanese politics: Serving two terms from 2006 to 2007, and then again from 2012 until poor health forced him to resign in 2020. He remained hugely influential within the Liberal Democratic Party even after office, and was in Nara to support the local candidate ahead of Sunday’s ballot.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the shooting an attack on ‘the foundation of democracy’, describing it as ‘heinous’, ‘barbaric and malicious’, and ‘absolutely unforgivable’. ‘I would like to use the most extreme words available to condemn this act,’ he added.

Video taken shortly before the shooting shows Abe arriving at the scene and greeting people before Yamagami steps out from behind a banner.

He walks behind the politician as he starts speaking before pulling the weapon from his bag and firing the first shot. It appears to miss Abe, who turns to look before the second fatal shot is fired.

Abe’s legacy will stand as perhaps the most significant of Japan’s post-war leaders – a hawkish conservative and economic reformer who dragged the country out of decades of stagnant economic growth and made it a power player on the world stage.

Born into a political dynasty, Abe’s grandfather and great uncle had both served as prime minister before him and he was groomed for power from the start.

He first became premiere in 2006 at the age of 52 – the youngest ever to hold the job – but was mired in scandal and abruptly stepped down after just a year while suffering debilitating the bowel condition ulcerative colitis.

He regained the premiership in 2012 and held the role for the next eight years – making him Japan’s longest-serving prime minister – before he was forced to step down again in 2020 when the bowel condition reemerged.

Abe is best-known for his ‘Abenomics’ agenda to revive Japan’s sluggish economy via a programme of vast government spending, massive monetary easing, and cutting red tape.

But he also pushed for reforms of Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution to allow the country to develop a fully-fledged military, and deepened ties with western allies – particularly with the US.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes to Abe as news of his death spread on Friday, saying: ‘His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many.

‘My thoughts are with his family, friends, and the Japanese people. The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time.’

The attack came just before noon in the country’s western region of Nara, where Abe had been delivering a stump speech with security present, but spectators were able to approach him easily.

Footage broadcast by NHK showed him standing on a stage when a man dressed in a grey shirt and brown trousers begins approaching from behind, before drawing something from a bag and firing.

At least two shots appeared to be fired, each producing a cloud of smoke.

As spectators and reporters ducked, a man was shown being tackled to the ground by security. He was later arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, reports said.

Local media identified the man as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, citing police sources, with several media outlets describing him as a former member of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the country’s navy.

He was wielding a weapon described by local media as a ‘handmade gun’, and NHK said he told police after his arrest that he ‘targeted Abe with the intention of killing him’.

Witnesses at the scene described shock as the political event turned into chaos.

‘The first shot sounded like a toy bazooka,’ a woman told NHK.

‘He didn’t fall and there was a large bang. The second shot was more visible, you could see the spark and smoke,’ she added.

‘After the second shot, people surrounded him and gave him cardiac massage.’

Abe was bleeding from the neck, witnesses said and photographs showed. He was reportedly initially responsive but subsequently lost consciousness.

Officials from the local chapter of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party said there had been no threats before the incident and that his speech had been announced publicly.

Kishida said ‘no decision’ had been made on the election, though several parties announced their senior members would halt campaigning in the wake of the attack.

The attack prompted international shock.

‘This is a very, very sad moment,’ US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters at a G20 meeting in Bali, saying the United States was ‘deeply saddened and deeply concerned’.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha was ‘very shocked’ at Abe’s shooting, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was ‘deeply distressed’ by the news.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, held office in 2006 for one year and again from 2012 to 2020, when he was forced to step down due to the debilitating bowel condition ulcerative colitis.

He was a hawkish conservative who pushed for the revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution to recognise the country’s military and has stayed a prominent political figure even after his resignation.

Japan has some of the world’s toughest gun-control laws, and annual deaths from firearms in the country of 125 million people are regularly in single figures.

Getting a gun licence is a long and complicated process for Japanese citizens, who must first get a recommendation from a shooting association and then undergo strict police checks.

Japan has seen ‘nothing like this for well over 50 to 60 years’, Corey Wallace, an assistant professor at Kanagawa University who focuses on Japanese politics, told AFP.

He said the last similar incident was likely the 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, the leader of the Japan Socialist Party, who was stabbed by a right-wing youth.

‘But two days before an election, of a (man) who is so prominent… it’s really profoundly sad and shocking.’

He noted, too, that Japanese politicians and voters are used to a personal and close-up style of campaigning.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, held office in 2006 for one year and again from 2012 to 2020, when he was forced to step down due to the debilitating bowel condition ulcerative colitis.

He stepped down as prime minister in 2020 because he said a chronic health problem has resurfaced.

Abe has had ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager and has said the condition was controlled with treatment.

He told reporters at the time that it was ‘gut wrenching’ to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan´s war-renouncing constitution.

That last goal was a big reason he was such a divisive figure.

His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.

Supporters of Abe said that his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan´s defense capability. But Abe made enemies too by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.

Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’ nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel expressed sadness and shock at the shooting. ‘Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the U.S. The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, & people of Japan,’ he said on Twitter.

For Shinzo Abe, a life in politics was destined for him – growing up he watched his maternal grandfather lead Japan as Prime Minister and his father work as a foreign minister.

Abe, 67, became Japan’s most famous politician and longest-serving prime minister, with a tenure marked with headline-grabbing moments, from a turn as Super Mario to enduring a 19-second handshake with former President Donald Trump.

Abe, who was shot and killed while delivering a campaign speech on Friday, was pivotal in putting Japan on the world stage – from leading a G20 Summit to hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The former Prime Minister said little about what he thinks his legacy would be, but a key moment of pride for Abe was when Barak Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima in 2016.

A conservative and nationalist, he was also known for his closeness to Donald Trump, and his ability to guide and subtly influence the mercurial U.S. president.

Abe became Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister in November 2019, but was forced to step down in 2020 due to the debilitating bowl condition ulcerative colitis.

Abe was also known for ‘Abenomics’, his economic policies designed to drag the country out of a decades-long deflationary slump, and for his support for a strong Japanese military, plus taking a hard line on North Korea.

As a leader of a G7 nation, Abe hosted the gathering of world leaders in 2016, and was seen as a seasoned, wily politician.

Born into a politically-influential family, Abe was first elected prime minister in 2006, and served for a year. He was elected again in December 2012, and dominated the Japanese political scene even after he stepped down almost two years ago due to the inflammatory bowel condition ulcerative colitis. He said his condition had worsened, forcing his resignation.

But he remained extremely influential, described by some analysts as a political kingmaker.

On Friday, Abe was campaigning ahead of elections to the upper house, due to be held on Sunday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who now leads Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, was hoping to gain a firmer grip on the factious party and allow him to emerge from the shadow of Abe, his powerful predecessor, and define his premiership.

During his time in office, Abe made building a close personal relationship with former US president Donald Trump a cornerstone of protecting Japan’s key alliance.

In 2016, he flew to New York to chat with Trump after the US election, becoming the first foreign leader to meet him at his Manhattan skyscraper.

The pair regularly golfed together, and Trump was the first head of state to meet Japan’s new emperor.

But there were plenty of awkward moments.

In 2017, a video went viral of Trump almost wrestling with Abe in a handshake that lasted 19 seconds and ended with the Japanese leader visibly grimacing and appearing relieved the encounter was over.

And then there was their 2018 golf game, when Abe tumbled backwards into a bunker and Trump marched down the fairway seemingly oblivious.

Meanwhile, in 2016, Abe made headlines when he decided to show his commitment to the Olympics in an unusual fashion – by appearing as video game icon Super Mario.

He donned the disguise at the Rio Games for the official handover ceremony to Tokyo, appearing to tunnel through the earth from Japan to Brazil thanks to some digital trickery, before popping up in full costume.

‘I wanted to show Japan’s soft power to the world with the help of Japanese characters,’ he told reporters.

Abe said little about what he thinks his legacy would be, but he cited one particular point of pride: bringing then-US president Barack Obama to Hiroshima in 2016.

Obama became the first sitting US president to visit the site, where he paid tribute to victims of the world’s first atomic attack, though stopping short of offering an apology for the bombing.

Later that year, the two leaders made a poignant joint pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor, the first visit by a sitting Japanese leader to the memorial there, issuing symbolic declarations about the power of reconciliation and warning against the drumbeat of conflict.

Abe’s tenure was also marked by less successful moments including his 2013 visit to Yasukuni, a shrine that venerates the souls of Japan’s war dead – including some convicted by a US tribunal of war crimes.

The shrine is seen by many in the region as a symbol of Japan’s militarism during which much of East Asia and Southeast Asia were subjected to brutal offensives and years-long occupations.

Abe’s visit prompted outrage from China and South Korea and even a US rebuke.

He said the trip was not intended to inflame tensions, but he stayed away afterwards, sending only ritual offerings in following years.

Abe himself seemed destined from the start to enter politics.

His family was a politically-influential clan based in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, to the far south of the country.

Abe’s father, Shintaro Abe, served as Japan’s foreign minister from 1982 to 1982. He also served as minister of trade, of agriculture, and Cabinet secretary, and was a serious contender to become prime minister.

Shintaro’s own father, Kan Abe, served in the House of Representatives from 1937 to 1946.

Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi helped found the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955 and served as Prime Minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960.

The younger Abe studied politics and policy in Japan and California, before returning to his homeland to work briefly in the steel industry.

In 1982 he entered politics, first as an assistant to the foreign minister, and then as private secretary to the Liberal Democratic Party’s general council and their secretary-general.

On his father’s death in 1991, Abe decided to run for office, and in 1993 was elected to represent Yamaguchi Prefecture’s first district.

He served as the Japanese government’s chief negotiator on behalf of Japanese abductees seized by North Korea, and in 2002 traveled to meet Kim Jong-il.

In April 2006, he was elected as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. In September of that year he was inaugurated as prime minister, at the age of 52 – the youngest person to assume the role since the 1940s.

Abe sought to balance the budget, and set about ushering in a hardline nationalist agenda, with renewed emphasis on the military – something which had been a highly sensitive subject following the Second World War.

Internationally, Abe was critical of North Korea, but worked to strengthen relations with China and India.

His government was unpopular, however, and Abe resigned after a year in the job.

He said at the time that his ulcerative colitis was a factor in his decision.

By 2012 he was back, thanks in part to a new drug, and ran for re-election as prime minister, winning the race in December 2012.

In February 2013, Abe delivered a speech in Washington DC, and declared that he had returned to prevent Japan becoming a ‘Tier Two Nation’, declaring that ‘Japan is back’.

He is remembered for his economic policies, dubbed Abenomics – a set of aggressive monetary and fiscal policies, combined with structural reforms, which were launched in 2013 to pull Japan out of its decades-long deflationary slump.

The policy was based around what Abe termed three arrows: monetary policy, fiscal policy, and structural reform for growth.

Domestically, he strongly opposed what he saw as an excessive emphasis on Japan’s wartime crimes.

Internationally, he was highly visible – touring all 10 ASEAN nations in his first year in office.

Abe married Akie Matsuzaki, a socialite and former radio DJ, in 1987.

The pair have no children.

 

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